For many, baseball has been America’s favorite pastime since Major League Baseball (MLB) was founded in 1871. When the first baseball cards were introduced, they originated quite simply as team photos, eventually becoming the more personalized cards with statistics and individual pictures we know today. After the success of baseball cards, other sports leagues started making them, and it grew into a market that fans around the world could be a part of.
Noah Ferruggia ’23, a pitcher for the Lewis & Clark Varsity Baseball team, has been collecting sports cards since he was only ten years old, a hobby he inherited from his father. The elder Ferruggia accumulated around 500,000 cards in his time, and passed them on to his son. Only about 200 were considered valuable enough — $5 or more — to keep.
As a longtime collector, Ferruggia focuses on baseball and Formula 1(F1) racing cards, his two favorite sports. He has a YouTube channel, Pioneer Sport Cards, where he discusses his predictions, pursuits and prized possessions.
Ferruggia enjoys collecting sports cards for a myriad of reasons.
“It’s a nice constant, it builds community and keeps me engaged with sports,” Ferruggia said.
There is an economic component to collecting sports cards as well. Ferruggia frequently flips (a combination of trading and selling) his cards, often for a profit. A year before racer Max Verstappen won the 2021 F1 World Championship, his 2020 Topps Now Max Verstappen #23 PSA 10 cards were selling for $4 each. Noticing that Verstappen had been successful with average vehicles, Ferruggia banked on Team Red Bull giving him an upgrade and invested $320 to buy eighty cards. A year later, they were worth $150 each, and are worth about $80 today. Whenever he needs a little cash, he sells one.
“It’s like a stock market for sports,” Ferruggia said. “You never really see any of the money though, it keeps getting snowballed in.”
Ferruggia also emphasized that he does not plan to invest in any more cards, but is flipping them for other cards to try and increase his net worth. According to him, you have to be willing to move on or you could lose an opportunity to upgrade in value. Ferruggia said he has only one card he would never part with: his 2020 Topps chrome F1 sapphire Lewis Hamilton 70th anniversary PSA8, the most expensive card he owns. He purchased it for $3,000 in cash and $3,000 in cards, and it is currently valued at around $8,000, or a year’s worth of food at Field’s Dining Hall.
“It was a real relief having it in hand,” Ferruggia said. “It’s terrifying having that much money in the mail.”
Unfortunately, Ferruggia keeps his prized Lewis Hamilton at home, where it is safer, but he was able to show a few of his other favorites.
On the left in the photo is the oldest of the three, which is his 1986 Alain Prost. Prost was a four time world champion in F1, who previously held the record for most world championships, including the first ever back-to-back win in 1985 and 1986. The card is not the typical Topps brand. Instead, it is a sticker card (one meant to be glued into an album) from Italy.
In the middle is Dylan Carlson, an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals who holds a special place in Ferruggia’s heart. Carlson’s brother was on Ferruggia’s high school baseball team, and his dad was Ferruggia’s coach. Additionally, Carlson himself attended Ferruggia’s high school, and the two have met a number of times. The card is a red Topps chrome sapphire, meaning that there are only five of them in existence. The card is valued at an estimate of $1,000.
Finally, located on the right is his newer George Russell card graded at a PSA 10 — meaning it is in the best condition — that is worth $250. Russell is an up-and-coming driver for Mercedes Benz who got an opportunity when a Benz driver caught COVID-19 and someone was needed to fill in. Russell stepped up to the task, and a few years later Mercedes Benz officially signed him to their team.
Card collecting is not for everyone, and the value of sports cards can seem fairly high to an outsider. However, for its participants it is often highly enjoyable. Ferruggia gets to engage with his passion for sports in a novel way, and potentially make a profit while doing so.